There had been seven previous major championships at Southern Hills and up with the pace had been the place to be. As many as five of the seven winners had led or co-led after the opening round and all seven had been in front at halfway. The 2022 US PGA Championship couldn't have been more different...
Rory McIlroy was the first man to show the way but as highlighted in the In-Play Blog and on Twitter on Thursday, he has a poor recent record when starting fast and for the 13th time in-a-row, he failed to kick on and win having led after day one.
Rory started his final round brilliantly, parring the first before birdying the next four but a bogey at six stopped him in his tracks and he finished eighth in the end having been matched at a low of 3.7511/4.
Will Zalatoris led the way at halfway but a three-over-par 73 on Saturday halted his progress and we headed into yesterday's fourth and final round with Chile's Mito Pereira trading at just a shade over 6/4 as he led by three.
The first four on the leaderboard after three rounds - Pereira, Zalatoris, Cameron Young and Matt Fitzpatrick - were all in search of their first major and their first PGA Tour title so although they dominated the market, there was always a strong chance that nerves may have a factor and so it proved.
A two-over-par 37 on the front nine by the leader opened the event up nicely and Young, who was very well backed from around 110.0109/1 to 70.069/1 before the off, was the first man to look like benefitting from the Chilean's slow start.
Having been matched at a high of 500.0499/1 in the early stages of the championship, the 25-year-old New Yorker was matched at a low of 2.9215/8 but his chance was gone after a bogey at the 14th and a double-bogey six on the 16th.
Pre-event 65.064/1 chance, Fitzpatrick was matched at a low of 3.814/5 after he'd chipped in for birdie on the 15th hole but he gave it back at the 17th (the second easiest hole on the course) and when it looked like Zalatoris' challenge had ended with a bogey at the 15th also, pre-event 240.0239/1 chance, Pereira, who was matched at a high of 510.0509/1 when the market first opened, was matched at a low of 1.271/4.
Pereira hit a decent shot off the tee on the drivable par four 17th, just shy of the green, but after leaving his birdie putt millimetres short in the jaws, leading by just a stroke over Zalatoris and Justin Thomas in the clubhouse, disaster struck off the tee on 18 when he drove into the stream to the right of the fairway.
After taking a drop, the unfortunate Pereira missed the green left and his fourth shot was just too strong, running past the flag and just off the green. His fifth shot to ties Thomas and Zalatoris didn't get close to dropping and we were into a three-hole aggregate score playoff.
Pre-event 21.020/1 chance, Thomas, was the understandable favourite over pre-event 50.049/1 chance, Zalatoris, but after Thomas was forced to lay up on the first of the three playoff holes, the par five 15th, and Zalatoris had found the green in two, Zalatoris was matched at a low of 1.51/2.
It looked like he'd gained the initiative, but Thomas hit his approach to a few feet and both men chalked up birdie fours before Thomas took the lead with a birdie at the second playoff hole after driving the green (the par four 17th) and when both men parred the 18th, Thomas, was left to lift the Wanamaker Trophy again, having won the title for a first time in 2017.
Thomas, who was matched in-running at 790.0789/1, had looked a most unlikely winner for most of the day. Having begun the round trailing by seven, he hit a shank on the sixth tee, played the first eight holes in one-over-par, and there's little doubt about when it all changed.
The monster birdie at 11 provided the momentum required for Thomas and birdies followed at 12 and 17 but it never really looked like being enough until Pereira's tee-shot on the 72nd hole.
Southern Hills served up a classic Championship and it also provided us with a perfect example of why we shouldn't just blindly follow the stats.
As highlighted earlier, the seven previous major winners here had all led with a round to go but Thomas' seven strokes is the largest final round deficit overcome in a major championship this century.
Thomas didn't look at leaderboards on Sunday and he knew his chance was a slim one (he was a 40.039/1 chance on the exchange) but he also knew that the leaders would get nervous in search of their first PGA Tour wins.
Given he was on the wrong side of the draw over the first two days and that he shot the best round on Sunday, Thomas can't be described as anything but a deserved winner but he'll also be remembered as one of the most unlikely with even just a few holes to go.
The PGA Tour switches back to Texas for the Charles Schwab Challenge and we're in for a treat on the DP World Tour with the Dutch Open returning to the fabulous Bernardus links. I'll be back tomorrow with the previews.
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